SAN JOSE, Calif. – A Somali immigrant who survived an arduous flight to Hawaii stowed away in a jet’s wheel well says he was trying to reach his mom, a refugee in Ethiopia who says her teenage son broke down in tears this week during their first call since his ordeal.

Ubah Mohammed Abdule, who is seeking U.S. asylum, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that her son, who she hasn’t seen in eight years, cried on the phone Tuesday and told her he thought she was dead.

“He says, ‘Mom you are not dead for sure? I thought you died in a boat trip. This is incredible news.’ Then he became silent for a moment. Then he cried,” she said.

Yahya Abdi, 15, said Tuesday that he ran away from his Santa Clara home, hopped a fence at Mineta San Jose International Airport in April and climbed aboard the Hawaiian Airlines plane because it was the first flight he could find heading west, and he wanted to go see his mother. Abdi, who described crouching in the wheel well and covering his ears at take-off, made his first public comments during a Google Chat on Tuesday to KPIX-5.

“It was above the clouds, I could see through the little holes,” Abdi said, who gave short, stilted answers.

He survived the flight at 35,000 feet despite low oxygen and freezing temperatures. Video footage from the Maui airport shows him dropping to the tarmac about an hour after the jet landed.

The teen said he made the decision to get on board the plane because he didn’t want to live with his stepmom and wanted to find his mother, who he hasn’t seen since he was 7 years old.

He is staying at a temporary foster home. He will be a junior in high school this fall and plans to live with his aunt in the Minneapolis area.